Memorial Day...

artist: Nick Anderson (The Houston Chronicle); source: AmericanProgress.org

Memorial Day 2008: a statistical analysis
(from the Center for American Progress, 5.23.08)

  • 23.8 million: Approximate number of living veterans in the United States.
  • 1.1 million or 7 percent: Number and percent of female veterans.
  • 37 million: Approximate number of dependents (spouses and dependent children) of living veterans and survivors of deceased veterans. This represents about 20 percent of the U.S. population.
  • 1.64 million: Approximate number of U.S. troops who have been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq since October 2001.
  • 15: The current number of months for combat tours, extended from 12 by the Pentagon last year, with dwell time shortened to 12 months. While the Pentagon announced that Army tours would return to 12 months this fall, tens of thousands of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are still affected by this extension.
  • 825,000: Number of disability claims processed by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2007.
  • 223,564: Number of veterans from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan who filed disability claims as of September 2007.
  • 1,500: Number of homeless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans already located by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • 194,000, or 1 in 4: Total number of homeless people who are estimated to be veterans.
  • 13 percent: The increase in the Army's suicide rate since 2005. Suicides among active-duty soldiers in 2007 reached their highest level since the Army began keeping such records in 1980.

Bill O'Reilly claims there are no homeless veterans. Bush wants still more funding for his wars but argues against pay raises for military personnel, saying it is unnecessary? The White House issued a statement of opposition to the military pay raise portion of the new H.R. 5658 bill which claims the "overall military benefit package provides a good quality of life for servicemembers and their families."

Wow. This is the same military that cannot afford adequate protection for the troops? This is the same military that strongly advises its new dependents of enlisted personnel to sign up for welfare because the pay simply won't cover all their bills? This is the same military which provides insufficient tuition credits for its veterans? I guess a "good quality of life" is acceptable in the president's eyes. Sure, active duty soldiers can survive (that's code for: "scrape by") on a "good quality of life" just as easily as an injured veteran can survive with missing limbs or impaired mental faculties.

This is the reality of our country: where mediocrity suffices because excellence is just too much of a pain in the ass to be considered an attainable goal. Our elected officials sit in luxury's lap, cushioned by creature comforts, served by attentive staff who are paid to meet their every need - while their uniformed constituents endure all manner of hell in inhospitable conditions all around the globe. And somehow those elected officials sleep soundly each night, never plagued by guilt or nightmares over their callous disregard for the men and women whose sacrifices warrant nothing more than a "good quality of life" - somehow, they sleep. One can only wonder if said elected officials remove their rose-colored glasses before their heads hit their pillows.


all's fair in love & war...

My favorite actor has released his new film, War, Inc. The synopsis?

Turaqistan is a country occupied by an American private corporation run by the former US Vice President. In an effort to monopolize the opportunities the war-torn nation offers, the corporation's CEO hires Hauser to kill a Middle Eastern oil minister. Now, struggling with his own growing demons, the assassin must pose as the corporation's Trade Show Producer in order to pull off this latest hit, while maintaining his cover by organizing the high-profile wedding of Yonica Babyyeah, an outrageous Central Asian pop star and keeping a sexy left-wing reporter in check.

Here's a trailer:

Naturally, the PR blitz continues leading up to this film's Memorial Day weekend release. (It's releasing wide, but not in my city, so I must wait...damnit!) This likely will be one of my favorite flicks this year. C'mon, it has Dan Ackroyd playing the VP and Sir Ben Kingsley sporting a lovely southern lilt, plus it lampoons our current administration for their legendary Iraqi debacle? Oh, yeah.

I like the
John Cusack Q&A piece in the June issue of Vanity Fair, but his celebrity endorsement on 3Trillion.org - the site where you can virtually spend the equivalent of the Iraq war costs - is even better. Kudos to the team at Robert Greenwald's Brave New Films for this:

John's shopping spree includes a time machine that would stop Bush. Bravo! He would also raise American teachers' salaries ($2 billion), prosecute Bush and Cheney for war crimes ($50 million), buy the FauxNews parent organization ($56.5 billion) and provide universal health care to all, etc etc etc. Sometimes you can't just be an
altruistic philanthropist dedicated to curing all of society's ills. No, sometimes you need to buy a lil' somethin' for yourself:

garden gnome ($14.95)

What would you buy?



music to my ears...

OK, so I am always looking for new music. Especially new indie music. (I am, after all, a very white person according to the Stuff White People Like blog. I'm an oh-so-painfully, damn-near-translucent shade of white.*) And in true White Person fashion, I like to discover new indie music before you do. Entry #41 proves it.

This is usually very easy.

I have sources. I have my primary source, followed by a few dozen sites, magazines, stations and podcasts. These sources are infinitely helpful.

But today I hit the mother lode of musical reference.

Today I discovered TuneGlue. It's basically "six degrees" of musical separation. Read more about it here.^ In three clicks it helped me discover a few bands not otherwise on my radar. Example:
  • I enter "Elbow" in the search; it links to 5 bands I already like: Athlete, British Sea Power, The Dears, The Doves, and Turin Brakes.
  • Since I like Athlete, I click to see what other bands are like them; results include Editors and Snow Patrol, among others. (Note to self: check on bands called Feeder and Thirteen Senses...)
  • I love Editors, so I click to expand them: yep, sure enough, I find more bands I like - Interpol, Bloc Party, Kasabian. But wait...who the hell is Maximo Park? What about The Rakes?
  • 3 clicks = 4 new bands to research. It could be easier, but how?
Amazon and iTunes already give those "You might like" recommendations, but they're not diagrammed on-screen in such a snazzy way. What can I say? When my A.D.D. kicks in, I'm a sucker for shiny things that lead me down a rabbit hole...

* Could I be any whiter? #100: liberal bumper stickers. #99: grammar geek/typo finder. #96: New Balance shoes. #79: modern furniture. #64: recycling. #48: Whole Foods. #47: arts degrees. #44: public radio. #42: sushi. #40: Apple products. #35: The Colbert Report. #6: organic food. #1: coffee. (It's official! I am a fucking stereotype.)

^The site "Very Short List" is also quite informative in a "60-seconds of daily emailed enlightenment" kind of way.


more cartoons

I love editorial cartoons. I especially loved the work of Chattanooga cartoonist Bruce Plante - until he relocated to Tulsa last year. I worried (for naught!) that his replacement would disappoint. Clearly, the Chattanooga Times-Free Press chose wisely when they lured Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist Clay Bennett here from The Christian Science Monitor. Although I must question the sanity of any soul who willingly leaves Boston to come here. (Why, for the love of all that's good and holy, would anyone leave Beantown for the Scenic City of the South?!?) Be that as it may, he's good. He's damn good. And, like Plante, he's a liberal who loves to lampoon the GOP. Their styles are different (Plante sketches by hand; Bennett employs CG) but they satirize bureaucratic stupidity equally. They hunt the same prey, but with different caliber weapons.

I've already featured several Bennett cartoons. He's even gotten a lot of exposure in Slate's daily cartoons lately. So here's a taste of Bruce Plante's work. You can find him at: http://planteink.com/cartoons.cfm.


deep-fried southern stupidity...

File this under: 101 Things I Hate About the South

Oh, how proud am I to live in this backwards state full of petty, narrow-minded, bigoted morons? Tennessee is the state of my birth and the state of my residence. But it is not the state I call "home" because I never want to associate myself with the types of individuals who attack a political candidate's wife the way the Tennessee Republican Party has unjustifiably questioned the patriotism of Michelle Obama.

How proud am I? These antics make me ashamed to be a native Tennesseean. However, I applaud Barack Obama's stern rebuttal towards the idiotic TN GOP.

Here is his campaign's dignified response:

"This is a shameful attempt to attack a woman who has repeatedly said she wouldn't be here without the opportunities and blessings of this nation. The Republican Party's pathetic attempts to use the same smear tactics to win elections have failed in Mississippi, failed in Louisiana, and will fail in November because the American people are looking for a positive vision of real change. And if the Tennessee Republican Party has a problem with Senator Obama, maybe next time they'll have the courage to address him directly instead of attacking his family." - excerpted from
The Huffington Post (5.16.08)

Indeed, I relish the day I pack up & leave this state for the last time...


the joys of leisure reading...

...free time + books = bliss

I've been on a serious book-buying binge of late, but free time had been limited until this weekend. Few things frustrate me as much as seeing things I cannot enjoy due to the time constraints of school and work: My keyboard. My bicycle. My stack of books. It pains me to see my favorite hobby items covered in dust...

My bike sat untouched in the garage all winter. I dusted it off last weekend and rode until I lost feeling from the waist down. The ride felt good; the day-after aching muscles did not. (No, I cannot stretch my gluteal & inner thigh muscles enough to prevent soreness. I try. Every damn time!) The weather was perfect, the breeze was invigorating, and it didn't cost a cent. I rode last weekend because I knew my books would arrive this week. Plus, this weekend's weather was supposed to suck in an "not conducive to outdoor recreation" way. In other words, my favorite kind - cool, grey and rainy.

To recover from the ride, last Sunday I sat at my freshly-dusted keyboard and composed awhile. Maybe one day I will actually use the RECORD option. But when you play mainly for therapy, there isn't much incentive to preserve your creations for posterity. Besides, posterity isn't likely to occur when you're single and spend every waking weekend minute holed up indoors. But I digress...where was I?

Oh yeah. Reading. I emerged from a comfortable recline just long enough to refill my coffee and throw in two loads of laundry. Damn, I love weekends like this!

Here's what has kept me happily confined indoors for most of the weekend:
Time to refill the coffee cup and resume the leisurely position...


back in the saddle...

I forgot how good it felt to have my "game face" on...being in the zone...not backing down from obstacles and challenges.

Sometimes, life kicks your ass to the curb. Sometimes you just stay down for awhile, licking your wounds. Life is a ruthless bitch that way. Sometimes...


Sometimes you catch your second wind. You get a faint whiff of a scent that is forever lodged in your memory. You get an old, familiar tingle of a sensation that you used to feel on a regular basis. Your senses slowly come alive. You start to see things more clearly, hear things without as much distortion.

Sometimes, you fight back against the obstacles and opposition. You kick. You punch. You bare your teeth. You roar. You get in the game. You find your footing. Sure, sometimes you stumble a bit on your way back - but you never stay down. You keep clawing your way out of the muck and mire until the soil under your feet is as firm and sure as your balance on it.

Sometimes, you breathe in hope and exhale optimism.

It feels good to be back in the saddle. It feels especially incredible to know others are back in the saddle as well. Everything comes full-circle eventually. It's just a matter of being patient, never giving up, and focusing on the possibilities. The possibilities are endless. Always.



The word for the day is "concessions":

Clay Bennett
Chattanooga Times Free Press
May 15, 2008